Dream Interpretation Technique #2: Simplify
Simplify to See the Obvious
Today we dig into the dream interpreter’s toolbox to discuss one of the most effective techniques: keep it simple.
Explain your dreams in simplest terms. Summarize it in a sentence, phrase or word. Identify the central theme. The powerful drama and imagery of a dream can prevent you from seeing the simple, obvious meaning.
So, you dream that a dragon hunts you with the intent of eating you, and you run for your life. In simplest terms, you are running from something symbolized as the dragon, perhaps something that scares you or that you can’t face.
Look at the story from the perspective of the dragon. Perhaps it simply represents a problem you’ve been ignoring and it’s only getting worse the longer you wait. From the point of view of a dragon, a person is a small problem, right? In fact, when you use your imagination to ask Mr. Dragon what’s its beef with you, it replies in your mind that it eats anyone that ignores it. Now you know that whatever the dragon represents is probably something you ignore. Plus, it pegs the top of your anxiety meter, and that tells you it must represent something pretty serious. It’s strong symbolism. A dragon isn’t a fly buzzing around your head, a minor annoyance or problem that can be ignored. It’s a dragon!
You dream about losing control while driving and the car skids all over the road then straight over a cliff. You wake up just before impact, your heart pounding. In simplest terms, what does that say about you? How are you out of control? What sort of danger are you in?
Dream Interpretation | Notice the Obvious
Because you are in the thick of the action of a dream, it’s hard to see the obvious, even hours or days later when you reflect on it. But the meaning is right there if you explain your dream in simplest terms. The theme in the last example is about control. One word says it all. The car represents the movement of your life, and skidding off a cliff shows lack of control. Or you dream about flying like an eagle, and the word that comes to mind is soar. It sums up how you feel.
Keep it simple, or at least start simple and add to it.
Here’s a dream with meaning that’s obvious to everyone except the dreamer. He’s 16 years old and has been in a relationship with his girlfriend for six weeks. Things are fantastic, couldn’t be better, except for one thing, and it shows in a dream he has about his girlfriend locking him out of his bedroom. When he asks her to let him in, she refuses, saying from the other side of the door, “It’s not safe.”
Put together the clues: girlfriend, bedroom, locked door, something isn’t safe.
The only piece of information you lack is the fact that she won’t have sex with him. Now it’s obvious. Locked out of a bedroom, a room associated with sex, by a girlfriend who is putting off sex, and her reason is it’s not safe, as in, it’s not safe because she fears getting pregnant, or catching a disease, or her parents might find out or whatever. The meaning is obvious, but first the dream must be simplified as a one-sentence question the dreamer asks himself:
What am I being denied by my girlfriend?
To him, though, the meaning of the dream isn’t obvious, and it’s not a defect or anything, it’s just a blind spot. Plus, he’s young. As we experience life and accumulate associations, the dreaming mind has more to work with, and dream themes progress from general to highly personal. At 16 years old, his dreams tell the story as being locked out of his bedroom. At 60 years old, his dreams might tell a similar story as his girlfriend hiding his Viagra!
The young man could see from the eyes of the girlfriend-character in the dream and understand it from her perspective, then perhaps the meaning would be obvious.
More to Consider
While interpreting a dream like that you would also consider the possibility that the girlfriend in the dream symbolizes something other than the girlfriend! Talk about a new wrinkle. What if the young man is the one who has the hangup about sex and he denies himself the opportunity to get physical with his girlfriend, but it’s hard for him to admit to himself so the dream projects the action onto the girlfriend-character?
What if his girlfriend symbolizes a subject that is “closed off” to him and he won’t “go there” because it “isn’t safe?” I often find this sort of symbolism in the dreams of people who limit themselves and their experiences. They have strong boundaries and won’t deviate from the norm. For example, it’s “not safe” to “open the door” to pursuing a certain subject because his girlfriend wouldn’t like it.
What if the girlfriend in the dream represents, for example, the opportunity to take LSD and have a mind-opening experience, symbolized as entry into his bedroom — his most private, personal space, which symbolizes his “inner world” — and the locked door symbolizes his personal boundary against taking the drug? And why doesn’t he take it? Because he thinks it’s not safe, and his girlfriend would probably agree.
Bottom line: Every dream presents multiple possibilities for meaning. Just because something seems obvious in a dream doesn’t mean it’s correct. Make a hypothesis about the meaning and test it against the evidence. See if fits into the big picture or sums up the big picture. If it feels right, you can be reasonably confident it is right.
Dream Interpretation | There’s Obvious, Then There’s Really Obvious
Noticing the obvious extends to dreams with an obvious message. Interpreting symbolism and analyzing the dream-story are great fun but sometimes unnecessary. The meaning and message are right there before your eyes. For example:
- You dream that the brakes of your car don’t work. Could mean you can’t slow down your life, or it could mean you felt some softness in your brakes and subconsciously can sense they’re about to fail.
- You dream your tooth is infected. Could mean that you have allowed a situation to fester, or that you have an infection developing in a tooth and yeah, get to a dentist pronto!
Always consider the obvious. You can often tell the difference because of how a dream with an obvious message mirrors reality. The car with bad brakes in your dream is your car, and the road you drive on when they fail is one you drive on regularly. It’s not an imaginary car on an imaginary road. Dreams that closely mirror reality are more likely to have direct messages.
- In simplest terms, what is a baby? It’s new life. You dream that you have a new baby, so question is, what’s new about you or your life?
- What does it mean to endlessly pack luggage? You get ready but never get anywhere. Question is, do you prepare to advance or move on in your life but never “depart?”
- What is a pack of hyenas? Trouble.
- What is a bridge? A route over an obstacle. What sort of obstacle do you face in your life?
Keep in mind, I’m only giving simple examples and every dream theme discussed above has variations in meaning. I’m showing you how to simplify.
When you simplify a dream, the meaning and message can be obvious. Using the technique can also help you understand at least one part of a dream, then use what you know to interpret the rest. You know that the bridge in your dream represents a route over an obstacle, for example, and it explains why the river beneath it is filled with credit card bills and you are shirtless:
- The obstacle is too much debt.
- The route over it is your plan to pay it off.
- Your fear is you will end up financially ruined (shirtless) if you don’t get a handle on the situation.
This post is excerpted from my book: The Dream Interpretation Dictionary.
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